Rashad has bond with Jordan, but not much stock as journalist

Media Watch

August 21, 1998|By MILTON KENT

Longtime readers know that NBC's Ahmad Rashad is not usually held up in this space as a sentinel of journalistic integrity.

In fact, Rashad usually takes a pretty good beating in this space for a variety of sins, the most prominent of which is that he is a shameless shill, particularly when the product to be sold is Michael Jordan.

But, in the interest of fairness, today is the day when Rashad's best television qualities will be praised to the utmost.

Um, er, well (shuffle, shuffle).

We're still thinking.

Oh, yes, here's one: Rashad is one snazzy dresser. And here's another: He really reads a TelePrompTer well.

And that would be about it, loyal television viewers.

To be honest, from this vantage point, there really isn't much to say about Rashad's work besides that it is embarrassing, and that it speaks volumes about the world of televised sports that he has been able to stick around for as long as he has.

A profile of the former Minnesota Vikings-Buffalo Bills receiver in the current issue of Playboy provides some rather distressing evidence that Rashad has lost any sense of journalistic perspective if, in fact, he ever had it.

For one thing, Rashad, the sideline reporter for NBC's NBA coverage as well as host and executive producer of "NBA Inside Stuff," proudly wears a large gold ring with diamonds and the number 23 -- Jordan's number -- given to him by Jordan for Christmas.

For another, Rashad discloses that he and Jordan go off alone for about 20 minutes before a game "just laughing and talking and hanging out."

"I suppose the sports press would hate me even more than they already do if they knew that. They're a tough fraternity, and I'm not a member even yet," said Ra- shad in the Playboy story.

And why exactly is that? To hear Rashad and his cronies tell it, the reason he isn't thought of as a journalist is jealousy over his relationship with Jordan.

Said Isiah Thomas in the piece: "People are envious of a relationship they can't have. The thing is, the two of them understand each other, and when they get together they can laugh at the same things, and at themselves."

That's all well and good, and no one would begrudge Rashad the right to be friendly with a source. That's the way most reporters develop relationships with the people they cover.

But a reporter's subject must always understand that when the time comes for a critical piece to be written or broadcast, the personal relationship has to take a back seat to getting pertinent information to the audience. That's a reporter's sole function: informing the public.

Actually, both Rashad and Thomas are correct about the jealousy of Rashad's cozy relationship with Jordan. Many reporters wonder how the heck they can pull off such a deal and still stay employed by a reputable journalistic institution.

Around the dial

The stars of this weekend's offerings are a bunch of participants who play their respective games seriously, but don't get paid for their efforts -- at least not yet.

The Little League World Series gets going in earnest from Williamsport, Pa., on Sunday, and ESPN2 will have two games on both Sunday and Monday, with Sunday's contests airing at 3 and 6 p.m. Monday's clashes go off at 2 and 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, Jenny Chuasiriporn, the Timonium amateur who finished second in both the U.S. Women's Open and the U.S. Women's Amateur, will take questions on the Golf Channel's "Golf Talk Live," Monday at 8 p.m.

CNN's football studio shows commence this weekend, with "College Football Preview," hosted by Bob Lorenz, kicking off Saturday at 11: 30 a.m. Former Buffalo receiver James Lofton re-joins "NFL Preview" Sunday at its new time, 10 a.m., with Lorenz serving as the genial master of ceremonies.

Second verse, same as the first? We'll see tomorrow when Josh Lewin and George Brett, who had booth duties for last week's Fox Orioles-Indians telecast, draw the same assignment tomorrow in Baltimore.

The WNBA playoffs begin tomorrow, with top seed Houston traveling to Charlotte (Channel 11, 4 p.m.), followed by Phoenix playing host to Cleveland at 8 p.m. on Lifetime. Game 2 of the two series air Monday night as a doubleheader on ESPN, beginning at 8 p.m.

Finally, Arturo Gatti is the star of Saturday's HBO "Boxing After Dark" program (11 p.m.) as he takes on Ivan Robinson in a 10-round lightweight bout from Atlantic City.

Pub Date: 8/21/98

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